Monday, September 29, 2008

So You Think You Remember the Fifties?

George and Robert Leonard, founding members of the Fifties retro group Sha Na Na, examine the scholarly interest in how their singing group helped change the way Americans remembered the decade of the 1950's.

In the last few years, an unlikely group of scholars has been studying Columbia’s Sha Na Na as a test case: meta-historians, theoreticians of cultural history itself. In 2004, Rutgers University Press published a bold new book by Goucher professor Daniel Marcus, Happy Days and Wonder Years: The Fifties and Sixties in Contemporary Cultural Politics. In 2006, Elizabeth E. Guffey, a Stanford Ph.D. and associate professor at SUNY Purchase, published Retro: The Culture of Revival (London and Chicago: Reaktion Books distributed by the University of Chicago Press, Both books contain extensive studies of Sha Na Na’s “Fabricated Fifties” (Guffey’s term) because Marcus and Guffey — working quite independently — discovered Sha Na Na and Columbia College, in 1969, playing an unusual role in 20th century American history.

More precisely, in inventing it.

Read the whole thing for an interesting case study on the differences between history and preferred memory.

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